Launched in 1996, Hotmail was one of the first public webmail services that could be accessed from any web browser. At its peak in the early 2000s, hundreds of millions of email addresses ended in @hotmail.com.
Begining in 2011, however, Hotmail has been replaced with Outlook.com. Outlook.com is a personal information manager web app from Microsoft consisting of webmail, calendaring, contacts, and tasks services.
In this definition...
What came before Hotmail?
Prior to Hotmail and its competitor, Four11 RocketMail, email could only be accessed from a device with a specific software downloaded to it or required an Internet Service Provider (ISP) service agreement. Although many users today have @hotmail.com email addresses, the hotmail.com address now redirects to Microsoft‘s outlook.live.com site.
This has left many users wondering: What happened to Hotmail?
Microsoft Outlook in 2022
While users can still select @hotmail.com when creating a new email address, Microsoft phased out Hotmail in 2011 and relaunched the service as Outlook.com in 2012. Outlook.com is a web-based personal information manager consisting of webmail, calendaring, contacts, and task services. It’s worth mentioning Outlook.com is the free, web-based mail account and is not the same as Outlook, the mail client application of the Microsoft Office suite. Some statistics of Outlook.com include:
- Users: 400 million
- Date launched: July 31, 2012
- Languages supported: 79
- Owner: Microsoft Corporation
- Maximum attachment size: 20 megabytes
Hotmail features in Outlook.com
Outlook.com uses Ajax programming techniques and supports later versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome.
Main features of the webmail service include sending, receiving, and managing emails, scheduling and managing meetings and events with Outlook.com’s calendar, getting detailed information about contacts when their name is hovered over, managing tasks with Microsoft To Do, and locating messages, people, and documents with the search function. These features are located all in one place for easy access.
Outlook.com also adds travel itineraries and flight plans from emails to the calendar. It can attach files from Google Drive, DropBox, and OneDrive. Microsoft Office files can be edited straight from an inbox. Other, more specific, features of Outlook.com include:
- Email scheduling: Outlook.com allows an email to be written and then scheduled to send on the day and time you want it to go out. Once the email is written, navigate to Options>Delay Delivery and check the box that reads Do not deliver before. After the box is checked, fill in the date and time you’d like the email to be sent.
- Quick Parts: For emails that are sent repetitively, the Quick Parts feature allows users to save the text of an email, similar to a template. In future messages, the text can easily be inserted. To create a template, go to Insert>Quick Parts>Save selection to Quick Parts Gallery.
- Customizable email organization: Emails can be color-coded according to keywords or content. For example, instead of unread emails marked in bolded font, they can be highlighted red, green, or any other desired color. Users can specify a keyword, and Outlook.com will highlight the keyword in a specified color if the subject line includes the keyword. Emails from specific contacts, such as a coworker, can be highlighted for easy visibility.
Hotmail & Outlook.com benefits
Outlook.com offers a good level of security. It offers junk mail filtering and blocks external content such as downloaded images, web bugs, and data from spammy websites. In addition, users can choose to disable live links and block senders to further protect from junk and phishing emails. It features a built-in email scanner to send untrustworthy-source alerts and has multi-factor authentication.
The calendar is also a useful feature for collaboration. The Outlook.com calendar allows users to share their calendar with any colleague or client without restrictions. Users can create, edit, and manage online calendars for clients that can be accessed whenever is convenient for the client. Most notably, Outlook.com users can send text messages directly to the phone of anyone in their email contact list.
Outlook.com has a task tool integrated into the system, Microsoft To Do. With it, tasks can be organized by adding them to a day in the Outlook.com calendar, marking them as important, or adding them to a new list created by the user. To Do also features smart lists, which are filtered lists for making tracking and organizing easier. It also integrates with other Microsoft tools to expand email capabilities.
Hotmail & Outlook.com Costs
The basic version of Outlook.com is free, so there is no charge to sign up for an Outlook.com account. However, those with advanced email and calendar needs might want to consider a Microsoft 365 subscription, which comes with premium Outlook features. These premium features include custom domains, no advertisements, enhanced security options, and 1 TB of storage.
What is the history of Hotmail accounts?
Hotmail was launched in 1996 by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith, with backing from venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson.
When Hotmail first launched, the free accounts offered benefits such as spam filtering, enhanced virus scanning, and storage up to 250 MB. When Microsoft made the acquisition, Hotmail users also gained access to a calendar feature and the ability to save contacts to a digital address book. Users could also choose to pay a subscription fee to upgrade their Hotmail account and receive unlimited storage, support for larger attachment files, and no advertisements.
It was originally marketed as HoTMaiL to elicit a connection to HTML, the markup language that serves as the foundation for all web pages. Hotmail quickly gained more than 8.5 million active users and was sold to Microsoft within a year and a half. The sale closed on December 31, 1997 with a reported price tag of $450 million.
Since its launch, Hotmail had used a combination of FreeBSD web servers to handle Hotmail’s front end and Sun Solaris on Sparq to support the back-end. At the time of sale in, migrating to a Windows-only environment would prove to be a heavy lift. Hotmail’s needs exceeded the capabilities of Microsoft’s Windows NT Server and wouldn’t begin back-end migration until 2004.
Hotmail has been rebranded multiple times since it was added to the Microsoft portfolio. Shortly after the acquisition, it was relaunched as MSN Hotmail although it maintained all of the same features.
Windows Live Hotmail
In 2005, Microsoft launched Windows Live Hotmail as a response to Google’s competitive mail service, Gmail. This version of Hotmail offered better speed, stronger security, and more storage space in addition to other features that improved the user experience. The desktop version was deeply integrated with the Windows Essentials suite and OneDrive.
Hotmail assumed yet another identity in 2012 when Microsoft rebranded its webmail services as Outlook.com. This led to some confusion about whether users would be able to maintain their Hotmail email addresses, but Microsoft kept Hotmail on its list of supported domains alongside @live.com, @msn.com, and @passport.com. In fact, users can still select @hotmail.com when creating a new email address.
What is Hotmail now?
In 2015, Microsoft grouped its desktop and web applications under one umbrella system Office 365. This meant Outlook.com and the Outlook Mail app were integrated to look the same and use the same login credentials.
Today, users can download the Microsoft Outlook application or visit outlook.live.com to navigate to their @outlook.com or @hotmail.com email accounts. Users don’t have to do anything to update their Hotmail account to an Outlook.com account. If a user were to create a new Hotmail account, it would automatically become an Outlook account by default.
If you are an old Hotmail user looking to access your account, be sure to read this thread: How do I access my old Hotmail account?
Three Hotmail alternatives
Once Hotmail reached its EOL, many Hotmail users simply shifted their accounts to Outlook. Email marketing automation giant Litmus reported Gmail held 30 percent of the email client market as of January 2022. But there’s more to email than just gmail.com. Here are three full-featured alternatives worth considering.
Zoho Mail‘s suite combines secure email, contact management, tasks, notes, and calendar in a unified dashboard. Zoho Mail is available in consumer and business versions, and is accessible through web browsers and apps for iOS and Android.
ProtonMail secures its users’ emails with end-to-end encryptions and rigorous user authentication protocols. Available for both individuals and businesses through web browsers and mobile apps, ProtonMail’s email is integrated with secure storage and a calendar.
Mozilla Thunderbird is an email client offered by the Mozilla Foundation. Combining email, calendar, newsreader, and chat client, Thunderbird is built from an open-source code base.
How to create an Outlook account
Users don’t have to have a Microsoft account in order to create an Outlook.com account. It’s free to create, and with an Outlook.com account, users can access their email, calendar, task list, and contacts from anywhere with an internet connection. To create an new email account with Outlook.com:
- Open a web browser and navigate to Outlook.com’s sign-in page: outlook.live.com/owa/.
- Select Create a free account
- Enter a username this is the part of an email address that comes before the @outlook.com. For easy identification, most people use their name, such as email@example.com
- On the far right of the username field, there is a dropdown arrow. If clicked, this dropdown arrow will reveal the other domain that can be used for an email address, hotmail.com. If the Hotmail domain is preferred, select it from the dropdown menu. The default domain will be outlook.com if not specified. Select Next.
- On the next page, create a password. Ensure this password is difficult to guess and has a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Select Next.
- On the following page, enter your first and last name in the fields provided. Select Next.
- On the next page, choose your country/region and enter your birthdate. Select Next.
- On the next page, enter the correct characters from the CAPTCHA image. Select Next.
- Outlook.com will then set up your email account and display a welcome screen.
- To access your email account, select Sign in and enter your credentials on Outlook.com’s homepage specified in step 1.
How can I Log Into my Hotmail Account?
Hotmail was popular with many, many users. While Microsoft itself was reticent to share actual numbers, on May 2, 2013, TheRegister.com reported:
“Hotmail addresses may live on, but the service we once knew as Hotmail is no more, now that Microsoft has transferred all 300 million active Hotmail accounts to its new, modernized Outlook.com webmail offering.”
Source: “So long, Hotmail: Remaining users migrated to Outlook.com,” 5/2/2013, TheRegister.com. Accessed 12/2/21.
Even a quick scan through your contacts list right now is likely to turn up a few of the Hotmail faithful. So if you had a Hotmail account, and are trying to find that mid-1999 email with your Napster login, how do you get into that account?
Unfortunately, your options may be limited. That’s because your Hotmail account—which technically became an Outlook.com account back in 2013—continued to be accessible as long as you logged in at least once a year.
If you went 366 days without activity, Microsoft deactivated the account. And after five years without activity, your Hotmail account was deleted.
Given how long we’ve been living with email, there’s at least some chance that you logged in sometime after MSFT told you resistance was futile and your Hotmail account was being assimilated. It’s worth a try, right?
- Click on over to Microsoft’s account recovery tool.
Enter your old email address ending in “@hotmail.com”, a known good email address where you can be reached, and the bot-proof wavy characters you see. Click Next.
- Microsoft will send a 4-digit code to the known-good email you gave in Step 3.
- Enter that code, then click Verify.
You’re halfway through. Now comes the fun part.
- Provide some information about who you are.
Microsoft has a number of questions to confirm who you are, including a security question you (may have) set up back when you opened your original Hotmail account. Answer them as best you can, then click Next.
- Take some strategic guesses about passwords you may have used.
If you’ve been using a password manager, good on you! Otherwise, provide a couple of your old standbys, and check the applicable boxes about other Microsoft products or services you may have used. Click Next.
- Enter some emails and subject lines of emails you have recently sent.
These, along with the rest of the info you’ve provided, may help the Microsoft security team associate your old Hotmail account with your current digital identity. When you’ve provided all the info you can, click Next.
- Think good thoughts.
At this point, you’ve done all that you can. Microsoft’s security team will evaluate your information and send an email within 24 hours if your bid to recover your Hotmail account is successful.
How do I create a free Hotmail account?
Users can no longer create Hotmail accounts. This is because Microsoft migrated all Hotmail accounts over to its Outlook platform in 2013. Instead, Microsoft offers free email accounts through its Outlook webapp. Once you’ve created a free account, you can access your email account through the web, and desktop email applications, as well as numerous mobile apps.
How can I speak to someone about my Hotmail account?
While Microsoft’s Support page can provide some automated help, speaking with a live human about your Hotmail account is not possible. Instead, see the step-by-step guide above on how to recover your account.